One of the hardest parts of choosing to move abroad was saying goodbye my students. Other “goodbyes” were hard too, but these were real goodbyes. The “goodbyes” to friends and family were really just poorly masked see-you-laters and until-next-times and send-me-lots-of-snaps-especially-when-you-see-my-dog-s. The real goodbyes were infused with the knowledge that our paths may very well never cross again. And their futures, that I have become invested in, are no longer in my sight. (Last year I found a loophole in the grading software where I could creep on all my former students’ current grades. Then go have a chat if needed…)
Our country is not doing well socially. That’s the understatement of the year. We are failing miserably. And I feel an intense amount of responsibility to be there to model that kindness matters. Last year I had a discussion with my students about empathy after they all united as one against a substitute teacher. We talked about what could have caused that sub to think/act/feel a certain way that upset them and how they, as a class and individuals, could have responded more appropriately and respectfully. I asked them to practice putting yourself in another’s shoes before you make assumptions, before before you form opinions, before you take action, and for the love of all that is holy before you stage a coup detat that results in 5 kids getting sent to the dean and a massive headache for me. (Funny in hindsight, not funny at the time.😑)
Politics aside, no one can deny that this past election season and current presidency has fueled hatred. The rhetoric and narratives used by our leader have justified, encouraged, and emboldened those who breed prejudice and hostility. Intolerance has become tolerable and nonacceptance is now acceptable. If you disagree then I encourage you to go ask a person of color how their life has changed in the past year, because I garauntee you haven’t had that discussion yet.
My own bubble was burst when I heard stories of my students’ personal experiences. To the future of our nation, a group too young to vote, the message that was heard was that they are not valued. More than one told me that the overall sentiment was that over half of our nation hates them based on their race, religion, or ethnicity. More than one told me that their daily lives have been undoubtably filled with more hostility and terrorism since the start of the election. More than one told me that they are scared.
For that I feel guilt. I don’t want them to think that I am abandoning them, especially those who are more vulnerable now than ever. Because I feel like I am abandoning them, especially those who are more vulnerable now than ever.
So to my best ability, I explained why I have to go: They have shown me the beauty and strength of diversity. And now it’s my turn to explore that by moving abroad, immersing in a foreign culture, and studying how to utilize bilingual and multicultural education in my future classrooms.
I hope that those who I didn’t have a chance to explain that to will understand. I hope that they know I still believe that kindness matters. I hope they know they have inspired me to stand up, speak out, and take action for what I know is right. I hope they know that saying goodbye was anything but easy.
***To all my teacher/educator/mentor friends, I am so thankful for you. I send you all of the positive vibes as you start this school year. You have an important and difficult role to play every day. But I know you’ll take every opportunity to teach not just your subject matter, but how to be authentic, empathatic, and welcoming people.
***To all my dreamers, keep dreaming. There are too many people who have not given up on you and who will continue to fight for what we know is right. Kindness matters. It will always matter.